By Belinda M. Paschal
TROY — Visiting the home village of his German great-great-grandfather was at the top of genealogy buff Jay D. Wackler’s bucket list. As of mid-June, he can cross that item off the list.
The Troy resident’s interest in genealogy goes back about three decades, thanks to his parents, who shared his hobby. The family traveled all over this area visiting relatives and gathering information and pictures.
“My dad knew the name of my great-great-grandfather, Georg Andreas Ernst Wackler, and shared a lot of information with me,” Wackler said.
Among the facts that Wackler learned about his great-great-grandfather was that Ernst Wackler was the first in the family to emigrate to America, settling in Covington in 1852. On the ship to the U.S., Ernst met his future wife, Barbara Steinhilber, whose surname also is well-known in this area.
Wackler then located the small German village of Mainkling and set a goal to visit to do more research. As luck would have it, he was contacted by another Wackler who had been in touch online with Ruth Wackler Jakob, who lives in Ingersheim, Germany, and had been searching for other Wacklers on Facebook.
“She told Ruth, ‘You need to talk to Jay Wackler’ because everyone knows I’m obsessed with genealogy,” Wackler said. “We were convinced we were related somehow, but didn’t know how,” Wackler said.
Wackler soon learned that Ruth Jakob was his cousin and the two began communicating via Facebook. “Everything evolved from there,” Wackler said.
On June 18, along with his grandson, Sam, and four other relatives, Wackler made the trek to visit Mainkling for four days for what has become known as the “Wackler Worldwide Reunion.” While there, he met some 30-plus other Wacklers and stayed in the House of Wackler, where Ernst grew up.
“I’m guessing there were fewer than 20 homes in Mainkling; it’s a small, rural community. A big percentage of the people that live there were Wacklers. The House of Wackler is a producing farm with 80 milk cows,” Wackler explained.
On his first night there, the Wackler clan gathered for a picnic featuring foods — sausages, cheeses and breads — that were all handmade at the farm.
There was no problem bridging the language gap, Wackler said, as several of his newfound relatives and their friends spoke English.
“We were treated like celebrities,” Wackler said with a chuckle. “They took care of us like we were their own. I’m hoping that they’re going to come over here and give us the chance to do the same one of these days.”
Belinda M. Paschal can be reached at (937) 773-2721 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall.